News Article: Legal Ruling Sets Precedent for Inuit and ‘Arctic Serengeti’

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In an article published in The Globe and Mail on August 8th, Justice Sue Cooper ruled in favour of the underdogs by halting a joint German-Canadian project set to conduct seismic testing in Lancaster Sound, Nunavut, which is referred to as the ”Arctic Serengeti” for hosting the migration routes of several marine species such as narwhal, beluga whale, and polar bear. The Inuit communities that have lived in the area for generations have had negative experiences with seismic testing in the past, claiming that it has caused death and deafness among seals and has disrupted the migration routes of whales for decades. The testing is also feared to be a thinly veiled exploration for much sought-after oil and gas reserves in the Arctic. Judge Cooper wrote, “If the testing proceeds as planned and marine mammals are impacted as Inuit say they will be, the harm to Inuit in the affected communities will be significant and irreversible. The loss extends not just to the loss of a food source, but to loss of a culture. No amount of money can compensate…” Okalik Eegeesiak, president of the Qikiqtani Inuit Association, echoed these sentiments after the ruling by reiterating that ”Economic development is good, but not at the price of our livelihoods.” David Crocker, the lawyer who represented the Inuit, said that the significant ruling set a precedent for requiring companies and researchers to consult with and involve local communities in pre-research and pre-development phases. The full article can be read here and a follow-up article from August 13 can be read here.

11 August 2010

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